The Good Life
with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit
You can look back and remember the highs and lows by way of events and milestones. Or maybe, by the faces that come and go. Or you can check on the past and bring it back by way of food. They call it edible history, a relatively new way of bringing back the past but one that brings it with such clarity you can even smell it.
For us who were, at one time or another, part of the newsroom of your DAILY STAR, food sure carries plenty of memories. Who can forget the smell of batchoy at the old upstairs office in San Juan, which was on top of a restaurant? Each time the restaurant fried garlic, the entire newsroom would be filled and we’d all succumb to the temptation and shouted our orders to the waiters down.
Or bangus – fried, grilled, or served as steak – which was Allen’s favorite dish. He’d order this and spareribs from that downstairs resto and let us eat with him then.
The first intimate thing I learned about dear CPG when I joined the newsroom was that she was bored with fried chicken, which was often her lunch. So she’d trade this with “little fishes” paksiw – little fishes like lobo-lobo or gunu simmered in vinegar.
Like any office downtown, we also had our regular manuglibod – itinerant vendor – who brought her nigo full of goodies come snacktime. From her we’d munch on cheap barbecue, pork or liver, spaghetti by the plastic, and siomai.
The Galo office was memorable for Tita Lau’s food. Hers was a foodie family, and she’d share their food with us in the office across her house. I remember her omelettes, and most of all, the boiled Mondo bananas that she got from their farm.
When the STAR transferred to the old Paglaum Bakery along Hernaez Street beside the Provincial High School gate, we turned to street food – the ones sold by the vendors who sold to the students. I remember the fruits by the slice – Indian mango, watermelon, pineapple. Somewhere at the back of the office, someone sold pancit guisado that did not have anything but plain noodles, sautéed, and flavored with magic cube. I thought that was very plebian, poor me, until I went to China and found noodles served like that even in ritzy restos. Live and learn.
And oh, yes, the birthday food. We will always remember Weena’s freshly-made kuchinta, Maja’s homemade linugaw and Ronie’s sweetish spaghetti and morcon, whipped up by wifey Nemia. There were the office outings, and I recall the red eggs and red tomatoes. CPG, no doubt will not forget the cake they once brought to Mambukal for an outing. Lechon was, and still is, a DAILY STAR staple; it was always there even during the lean days.
One beat that was very important in the early days was the Church, what with social justice issues, militarization, the leftist inroads, the extra-judicial killings and of course, the always-quotable Monsignor Fortich. But we also remember it for the century eggs, the cheeses, the salami and pepperoni. And there was the famous chocolate cake, immortalized in Lucy Komisar’s unauthorized biography of Cory Aquino. Fortich had served that cake to Lucy on the night Marcos fled; Ms. L and I were there and had the cake too.
The house on Rosario Street of Ms L and her family, was as much a part of our lives then as the newsroom, and certainly also a place of many, many warm edible memories. There we had solid, regular meals – with soup and dessert; there, we joined their family parties that was, for a big clan, almost a weekly thing. It was there that we had lechon regularly, and learned the joys of eating the parts that were popular with Ms. L’s clan – the ribs, and that layer just under the crispy skin.
In fact, I think that binds all DAILY STAR oldtimers unconsciously. Ask any of us what we want in the lechon, and almost surely, we’ll tell you the ribs, and that layer of thread-like meat under the crispy skin.*
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